This process fixes the following issues with RAK MNTD and just about any Helium miner (let us know if you find one that it doesn't fix!):
- Hotspot can’t keep up with the blockchain after receiving a firmware update from RAK
- Block height stuck at 1 for more than 30 minutes
- Bluetooth (BT) won’t pair with the app after flashing
- Ethernet shows disconnected after flashing
- Can’t join WiFi network after flashing
- Blank Inbound/Outbound and block height under Diagnostics in the app.
NOTE: As per my my current testing, you only need to perform this process ONE TIME on each SD card, whether it’s brand new or already been in use. Once you’ve zeroed an SD card, doing it again will not help (unless you did it incorrectly the first time).
- Not really sure yet since all the ones we flashed with this method are working flawlessly since starting this process on Feb 19th, 2022.
- “Low Activity” – if your miner is online, synced to tip of chain and not earning as consistently as you think it should, but it is earning… this probably won’t help.
- Disclaimer: This process uses write cycles on your ~$15 SD card and reduces it’s usable lifetime (by a day? a week? a month? who knows?) but you probably won’t care because you’ll be earning $HNT in a matter of hours.
Common issues after flashing your RAK MNTD Helium miner:
I just flashed my RAK MNTD with the latest firmware from RAK and now I can’t connect with Bluetooth
I can pair with Bluetooth, but but Outbound, Inbound and Blockchain Height are all blank under diagnostics
I can pair with Bluetooth, but Ethernet says Disconnected
How to Zero your SD card and fix above issues on your RAK MNTD Helium hotspot miner
I have had 100% success (and so have others) by adding one additional step to RAK’s flashing process, AND being patient.
This section is what’s different from the directions on RAK’s instructions:
- Note: When you first insert the SD card into your laptop/PC, Windows may prompt you to format it – click Cancel.
- Download and install SD Card Formatter for Windows or for Mac
- Run SD Card Formatter, select the card from the drop down
- Select the “Overwrite format” option
- Volume label can be left blank
- Click Format, read the warning and click Yes
- This option will perform a full zeroing of your SD card and will take at least 30 minutes for a 64GB card (twice that for 128GB) if you are using a USB 3.0 card reader, connected to a USB 3.0 port on your Laptop/PC/Mac. If it only took a minute or less to run, you you didn’t follow one of the steps correctly so start at the beginning.
- Remove/reinsert the SD card reader from your laptop/PC/Mac.
This section is the same as RAK’s instructions:
- Download balenaEtcher
- Flash the latest image from RAK’s official site with balenaEtcher (02.17 as of this post). No need to use any of the January versions.
- If balena flashing fails, remove/reinsert the SD card reader and try again. No need to zero it again.
This is where patience is key.
- Install the SD card in the miner and power up.
- If you immediately try to connect via BT, you’ll be frustrated in one way or another and you’ll be inclined to reboot it. Connecting with BT will not make it work better. It will only frustrate you. Rebooting won’t fix it either.
- You’ve completed the process.
- Wait about 15 minutes and follow the steps below for checking status with HeliumGeek.
- Download Kent Williams Hotspot Utility from Google Play or Apple Store. Helium is deprecating the Helium app for configuring hotspots since each manufacturer will eventually release their own, so use Kent’s until RAK releases their version.
- In the Hotspot Utility app, search for your miner, which should appear within a few minutes of powering it on (make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your phone) and be patient. Tap the black button on your miner if you still don’t see it in the app about 5 minutes after powering it on. Once it appears, tap the miner to connect to it.
- Tap the Configure button next to WiFi Network, select your network and enter your WiFi credentials (RAK leaves that step out of their directions and may be one reason for so many offline RAK hotspots).
- If it doesn’t find your WiFi or fails to connect on the first try, keep retrying. You shouldn’t need to reboot the hotspot, just keep trying and make sure you’re close enough to your WiFi router (these hotspots have their WiFi antenna located in a metal box, so not the best design for maximum reception). Tap the black button on the side of the miner if you stop seeing it appear in the Utility app.
- Once it says you’ve successfully connected it to WiFi, it’s time for you to take a break. Don’t try to run diagnostics. They will usually fail and frustrate you. Wait about 15 minutes and follow the steps for checking status with HeliumGeek shown below.
SD Card Formatter on Windows:
SD Card Formatter on Mac:
USB 3.0 SD Card reader/port – notice the blue internals:
Kent Williams’ Hotspot Utility:
Checking status of your Helium RAK MNTD Helium hotspot miner with HeliumGeek
You’ve zeroed your SD card, flashed the latest image, powered it up, connected to either WiFi or Ethernet and taken a 15 minute break. Time to to check the status.
Using HeliumGeek app
- If you haven’t yet tried Helium Geek, it’s a great app on Google Play and Apple Store that tells you the miner’s latest reported block height (among other great info).
- Install the app, add your miner by taping the + sign at the top right. Tap yes to add the rest of your miners in your wallet, if you have one than one.
- Tap your miner name. If it doesn’t show the Sync Gap as shown here, tap the back arrow and tap the miner name again.
- Depending on the timing of when you check the status, you may see a block height of 1 and a Sync Gap of over 1 million, as shown here. This is good! It is working on downloading the latest snapshot from Helium’s site here. Do not reboot it!
- Check the status in 10 to 20 minutes. If all worked properly, the Sync Gap should be a lower number now and should decrease every 10 minutes and the reported height should increase. The size of the initial Sync Gap will be based purely on the snapshot height it downloaded from above link.
- This app only updates the reported height every 10 minutes, so if you check it every 10 seconds, it will only show the Gap increasing, making you think there’s an issue, until the next 10 minute interval where it updates the reported height. This requires a lot of patience, especially after you’re had so many issues with these, so hang in there.
- If the Gap is continually increasing, you most likely have an Internet connectivity issue. Try using Ethernet instead of WiFi and try rebooting your router/switches/cable modem, etc. I’ve had issues where the device worked fine at my house but not at the host’s house. I bought/configured/installed a new router for them and that fixed the issue.
- NOTE: If HeliumGeek is still showing Port Access Unreachable, disable WiFi on your phone and try again over your cellular network. See replies below on why.
Using Kent Williams’ Hotspot Utility
- If you’re using Kent’s utility to run Diagnostics, you’re only looking for it to show you successful status for Outbound and a Blockchain height, as it relates to this blog, since we only need outbound to work. Getting Inbound to work is not required to earn and will be deprecated with light hotspots. You can google search for how to open port 44158 to fix the relay status, but don’t worry about that until you’ve at least caught up to the tip of the chain and started earning.
RAK MNTD Hotspot was down for 5 days – here’s the timeline after zeroing it on March 5th at 1700 hours:
About 15 minutes after installing zeroed SD card – make note of the time in each screenshot:
Constructed a challenge and earned within 2 hours of installing the card!
About 19 hours later!
How to estimate your sync time:
- Get the current block height from here.
- Get the snapshot block height from here.
- Subtract the second number from the first number and divide by 150. i.e. (1251152-1248481)/150=17.8 hours
- Your calculation will vary based on current block height and when the last snapshot was created by the validators. The numbers used in this example are as of 3/3/22 12:43:00 UTC
- Actual results may vary, depending on your Internet speed and WiFi signal strength that your hotspot receives. Keep in mind that it’s housed in an metal case, so won’t get as strong as a signal as your phone. Ethernet always works better.
Extra tip if you made it this far
- We still have a few miners where we haven’t been able to swap the SD card yet and are still running the original 32GB card. Now that the Helium Validators (GTel runs validators) are (for the most part) reliably creating blockchain snapshots every 720 blocks, as designed, we’ve been able to temporarily revive a miner in the field by remotely power cycling it with a ~$10 WiFi smart outlet that we install with every hotspot.
- The snapshots are produced approximately every 12 hours, but we’ve found that some of the snapshots won’t auto download to the hotspot on a reboot. Our Network Operations Center (NOC) will power cycle those hotspots following the release of a new snapshot, until we see the reported block height for the miner in HeliumGeek at or above the snapshot height.
- You can track the latest snapshot height here so that you know when to try rebooting.
- After rebooting, wait 30 minutes and check the block height of your miner with Helium Geek. If it doesn’t show a block height greater than the one you saw in the above link, we repeat the process every 30 minutes for about 2 hours. If that doesn’t fix it, we wait until the next snapshot is released to try again.
Good luck mining!
Please leave a comment letting us know if this helped you or not or if you had to modify any of the steps and we’ll update the post to incorporate any changes you come across.
You can also read about these issues on github. The common theme for those who eventually got it working was that they formatted several SD cards or the same card over and over, until it worked. The zeroing process is simply a low level format that will get the SD card to work without having to try over and over.
Also do yourself a favor and spend a few extra dollars on the Max or High Endurance 64GB SD card (as per RAK’s recommendation). I’ve been using SanDisk and Samsung Max/High Endurance 128GB cards and they work great. Why 128GB? Because it was cheaper to go big than to possibly need to drive my gas guzzling Ford Raptor back to every host location to upgrade in the future. (I have a Tesla CyberTruck on order, if my Raptor offends you).
Do I know why this fixes so many issues? No. But I suspect it’s something with the way that the miner software tries to create the partition that it uses for storing the blockchain. I’m hopeful that RAK will eventually figure this out and we won’t need the extra step of zeroing the SD card before flashing.
Deprecated: Original instructions said to use imageUSB from PassMark software, which worked great, but using SD Card Formatter with the “Overwrite format” option selected seems to work just as well and is available for both Windows and Mac.